By Rick Kaempfer
The death of a local rock station (Q-101) has sparked another industry wide discussion about the future of rock and roll. According to the radio experts across the nation, it doesn't have one. They say that rock and roll doesn't speak to the kids of today.
You can mock three-chord rock and roll, but at least it was authentically our music. The lyrics spoke to our generation. They dealt with issues that affected us. No gangstas, no pimps, no hos. (Yeah, I'm looking at you suburban rap fans).
Our lyrics delved so much deeper than that, into our wants and needs. What did we want to do? Queen summed it nicely in 1978’s “Bicycle Race.”
“I want to ride my bicycle. I want ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride it where I like.”
That’s lyrical depth right there. The kids today have people like 50 Cent (singular), but they’ll never experience the kind of lyrical beauty provided by people like The Beatles. They didn’t just preach to us, they asked important questions. Remember this gem from 1968’s “The White Album”?
“Why don’t we do it in the road? Why don’t we do it in the road? Why don’t we do it in the road? Why don’t we do it in the road? No one will be watching us. Why don’t we do it in the road?”
Why indeed? Makes you think doesn’t it? We weren’t pretending like we knew what it was like to put a cap in some pimp, but we did know how to beg our women for a little love. It was part of who we were, and what we dreamed. We wanted to ride bikes. We wanted our women to consider places other than the back seat of the car. But most importantly, we wanted to have fun.
This was something we could still do as recently as 1986. The words of Wang Chung said this more beautifully than we ever could.
“Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight. Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”
Amen, fellas. Those were the days. When music was music. When lyrics actually meant something. When people could Wang Chung their little hearts out.
The kids of today will never be able to experience that kind of depth. They’ll never know the thrill of really committing to something (like boogie oogie oogie-ing, until they can boogie no more.) They’ll never learn about the gritty underbelly of Asian-American race relations (like the funky Chinaman from funky Chinatown that was chopping them up and chopping them down.) They’ll never know about diseases they may contract (like Cat Scratch Fever).
And that’s just sad.
So what can we say or do to rectify the situation? We may not have the answer, but the wordsmith Sting from the 1980s supergroup “The Police” certainly does:
“De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da, is all I want to say to you.”
And he doesn’t just say that for himself. He says that for our entire generation.